US Protest Law Tracker

The US Protest Law Tracker, part of ICNL’s US Program, follows initiatives at the state and federal level since November 2016 that restrict the right to peaceful assembly. For information about our methodology, click here.

43 states have
considered
161 bills
26 enacted 29 pending

No initiatives
Pending, defeated or expired initiatives
Enacted initiatives

Legislation and executive orders

Latest updates: Jan. 19, 2021 (Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oklahoma), Jan. 18, 2021 (Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Rhode Island), Jan. 12, 2021 (Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio)
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Arizona

HB 2309: New penalties for “violent or disorderly assembly” and for protesters who block traffic or "deface" monuments

Would create a new felony offense, “violent or disorderly assembly,” for any person who causes any property damage or personal injury with a group of seven other people, with the intent to engage in a “riot” or an “unlawful assembly.” The new offense is a Class 6 felony, punishable by one year in jail. The bill instates a mandatory, 12-hour detention for anyone arrested for the “violent or disorderly assembly,” and requires that anyone convicted of the offense be barred from obtaining public benefits or employment by a state or local entity. The bill would heighten the penalty for protesters who “recklessly interfere” with traffic on any “public thoroughfare,” or who, after receiving a warning, intentionally interfere with and prevent access to a government meeting or political campaign event. The bill provides that such interference is a Class 6 felony if it occurs while committing “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill would similarly heighten the penalty for unintentional property damage occurring during a protest, providing that “reckless” damage to property in the amount of $250-$1,000 is a Class 6 felony if it occurs while committing “violent or disorderly assembly.” Likewise, using fireworks, or “defacing” a monument or other public memorial are both elevated to a Class 6 felony if done while committing “violent or disorderly assembly.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference, limit on public benefits

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Florida

SB 484/HB 1: Expanded definition of "riot" and new penalties for protesters

Would enlarge the legal definition of “riot,” a 3rd degree felony, to include any group of three or more individuals whose shared intent to engage in disorderly and violent conduct results in a “clear and present danger” of property damage or personal injury, or actual damage or injury. Notably, the new definition does not require that the individuals’ conduct be disorderly or violent, or that they commit any actual damage or injury. Under the bill, a “riot” consisting of ten or more people, or one that interferes with the movement of a vehicle, is automatically an “aggravated riot,” a new 2nd degree felony offense under the bill. As such, large groups of protesters or ones that block traffic, even temporarily, could face up to 15 years in prison. Under the bill, “incitement” or “encouragement” of a riot is a 3rd degree felony, punishable by 5 years in prison. The bill also creates a new criminal offense of “mob intimidation,” defined as a group of three or more people who act with a “common intent” to compel “or attempt to compel” another person to “do any act” or “assume or abandon a particular viewpoint.” The offense is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill creates a new 3rd degree felony offense, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, for anyone who “willfully and maliciously defaces, injures, or otherwise damages by any means” statues, flags, paintings, displays, or other “memorials.” As “deface” is not defined, protesters who apply paint or graffiti to a monument in the course of a peaceful protest could face up to 5 years in prison. The bill could encourage violence against protesters, by creating a new affirmative defense in civil lawsuits for personal injury, death, or property damage, such that a defendant could avoid liability by establishing that the injury, death, or damage they committed “arose from” conduct by someone “acting in furtherance of a riot or unlawful assembly.” Finally, the bill creates a new civil right of action against a municipal government that fails to provide “reasonable” law enforcement protection during a riot or unlawful assembly, making them civilly liable for damages, including personal injury or property damage. These provisions, if enacted, could encourage municipal governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): damage costs, driver immunity, police response, riot, traffic interference, state liability

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Indiana

HB 1205: Expanded definition of "riot" and host of new criminal penalties for protesters

Would broaden the definition of “riot” and raise the penalty for riot in certain circumstances. Indiana law defines “rioting” as engaging in “tumultuous conduct” while a member of an “unlawful assembly.” The bill expands the definition of “unlawful assembly,” to require only 3 people engaged in “tumultuous conduct.” The bill also amends the definition of “tumultuous conduct” to include conduct that results or is likely to result in the “obstruction of law enforcement or other governmental function.” As a result of these changes, someone in a 3-person, peaceful protest whose conduct is deemed “likely” to interfere with a government hearing, for instance, could be covered by the resulting “riot” statute. The bill also heightens the penalty for “riot” from a Class A misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, if committed by a person wearing a mask (such as a medical mask) or other face covering. The bill requires a mandatory 30-day sentence and restitution as penalties for all riot offenses. The bill heightens the penalty for “disorderly conduct,” a broadly defined offense that includes making “unreasonable noise,” if committed by a person in the same area as a “lawful or unlawful demonstration, protest, or assembly.” The offense would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill would heighten the penalty for a person who damages or “defaces” property, as well, from a Class B misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony if committed by someone in the same “area” as a demonstration or protest. “Defaces” is not defined, and could include chalk and other temporary markings applied in the course of a protest. The bill also bars 24-hour protests on the grounds outside the state capitol, by making it a class A misdemeanor to “camp” in a number of places around the capitol building after being informed that camping is not allowed, either by signage or in person. “Camping” is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or using a piece of furniture. The bill would allow the state to seize any property that was used "to finance or facilitate the financing of a crime committed by a person while in an area where a lawful or unlawful demonstration, protest, or assembly was taking place." Finally, the bill would newly allow tort claims against government entities and officials for the failure to enforce the law “in connection with an unlawful assembly,” if the failure constitutes “gross negligence”—provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot, camping, state liability

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Indiana

SB 198: New penalties for funding protests, failing to leave an “unlawful assembly,” and violating protest-related curfew

Would create a new Class A misdemeanor, “financing an unlawful assembly,” punishable by up to one year in jail, for a person who gives funding or “anything of value” to another person, knowing that they intend to commit an offense while part of an “unlawful assembly” and intending to aid them. The offense is a Level 6 felony if the person provides funding for five or more people, and a Level 5 felony if the person provides funding for 10 or more people. Indiana law broadly defines “unlawful assembly” as an assembly of five or more persons whose common object is to commit an unlawful act, or a lawful act by unlawful means. A donor who provides funding or supplies to a group knowing that they intend to commit civil disobedience as part of an “unlawful assembly,” could face felony charges and up to six years in prison. The bill also authorizes the government to seize property that is used to finance or “facilitate” the financing of a crime committed by a person while part of an “unlawful assembly.” The bill creates a new Class B misdemeanor offense, “enabling riot,” for anyone who is present during the commission of a felony by a participant in an “unlawful assembly,” and who knows that the participant is committing a criminal offense, and fails to “immediately” either leave the location or report the offense to law enforcement. A journalist, for instance, who stays at the scene of a protest that is deemed an “unlawful assembly,” and does not immediately report unlawful behavior could face six months in jail for “enabling riot.” The bill newly authorizes the head of a county or city to declare a curfew upon receiving information about the “likelihood” of a “riot” or “unlawful assembly,” and creates a new Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, for failure to abide by curfew orders. The bill expands the attorney general’s concurrent jurisdiction with the prosecuting attorney to include prosecutions of any “criminal offense” committed by members of an “unlawful assembly.” As a result, the Indiana attorney general would be able to bring charges against protesters if the relevant local prosecutor declined to do so. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): conspiracy, riot

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Indiana

SB 96: Expanded definition of "riot" and ban on protest camps on state property

Would redefine “rioting” as three or more people who “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally” engage in “tumultuous” conduct, punishable by a minimum of 30 days in jail and up to one year in prison. “Tumultuous” conduct includes conduct that obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions, or that is likely to result in substantial damage to property or bodily injury. The offense does not require actual property damage or violence, and could cover a small peaceful group of protesters that momentarily blocks a government vehicle. The bill also makes it a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, to “camp” in a number of places around the state capitol building after being informed that camping is not allowed, either by signage or in person. Camping is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or placing a piece of furniture on state property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference, camping

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Indiana

SB 34: New penalties for unpermitted protests that block traffic, unlawful assemblies, and "riot" offenses

Would increase the penalty for obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic to a level 5 felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, if committed by "a person participating in a protest or demonstration” that is not authorized by a permit. The bill also newly penalizes as a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, participants in an unlawful assembly in a place of public accommodation who make unreasonable noise and continue to do so after being asked to stop, or who disrupt a lawful gathering of persons. The bill enables the government to seize any “real or personal property” that is used to finance or facilitate a crime—including minor violations—committed by a person who is part of an unlawful assembly. It strips immunity from government officials who “fail to enforce the law in connection with an unlawful assembly, if the failure to enforce the law constitutes gross negligence,” opening up government officials to civil suits if they do not aggressively police protests. The bill bans a person convicted of rioting from holding state government employment, including elected office, and bars a person convicted of rioting from receiving a broad range of state and local benefits, including healthcare and educational benefits. Rioting in Indiana is defined broadly as a person who, as part of an unlawful assembly, recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in “tumultuous” conduct. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 4 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference, state liability, limit on public benefits

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Kentucky

HB 164: New penalties for protests that disrupt lawful meetings, block traffic, occur overnight on state property, and for “riot” offenses

Would raise penalties for protests that disrupt or offend meetings of public officials. The penalty for “disrupting a meeting” is increased to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if a person did “any act” “tending to obstruct” a lawful meeting, or made “any utterance, gesture, or display designed to outrage the sensibilities of the group.” Protests that block streets would face higher penalties as well: Obstructing any “public passage” is raised to a Class A misdemeanor; it is raised to a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, if it prevents an “emergency vehicle,” defined as any government or public service vehicle responding to an emergency, from accessing a street. The bill also bars 24-hour protests on certain state property, by making it a Class D felony to “camp” on state property that is not specifically designated for camping. “Camping” is defined as conduct between 10pm and 7am that includes laying down a blanket or using a piece of furniture. The bill would impose mandatory minimum sentences of 30-45 days for individuals convicted of riot offenses. Kentucky law defines “riot” as a group of five or more that creates a danger of property damage or personal injury, or that substantially obstructs law enforcement or another government function, through violent and tumultuous conduct. The bill would also require that courts order full restitution “for any pecuniary loss” in riot convictions. The provision does not require that an individual convicted be ordered to pay restitution only for “pecuniary loss” that they were directly responsible for. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 5 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot, traffic interference, camping

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Maryland

HB 198: New penalties for protests that “disturb the peace”

Would dramatically expand the definition of “disturbing the peace” such that it could be applied to protests in a number of contexts. Under the bill, the offense is revised to broadly prohibit intentionally causing or recklessly creating a risk of “public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm,” by conduct including: engaging in “tumultuous or threatening behavior;” “making unreasonable noise;” “disturbing” any lawful meeting or gathering; or obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. As revised, the offense could apply to protesters who are deemed “threatening” or “unreasonably” noisy; it could also apply to a protest that “disturbs” a government hearing or “obstructs” pedestrians on a public sidewalk. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two months in jail and a $500 fine. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Minnesota

HF 129: NEW PENALTIES FOR PROTESTS NEAR GAS AND OIL PIPELINES

Would create new civil and criminal liability for protesters on infrastructure property as well as for any organization or entity that supports them. Like HF 3668, introduced in the 2019-2020 session, HF 129 would make someone who is convicted of or merely arrested for trespassing on property containing a critical public service facility, utility, or pipeline, civilly liable for any property damage arising out of the trespass. Under the bill, a person “or entity” that “recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with” someone who is convicted of or arrested for trespassing is also civilly liable for damages. The bill creates criminal liability for anyone who "intentionally recruits, trains, aids, advises, hires, counsels, or conspires with” someone to trespass, as well: If the person or entity fails to make a “reasonable effort” to prevent the trespass, and the offense is committed, they are guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The broad language used in the vicarious liability provisions could be construed to include aiding a protester by providing them with water or medical assistance. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 14 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, infrastructure, trespass

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Mississippi

SB 2374: New penalties for protest organizers and protestors who fail to disperse, interfere with traffic, or “deface” monuments, and a legal shield for drivers who hit people at protests

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, “violent or disorderly assembly,” that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as either a) a group of 10 or more people who refuse to heed a lawful order to disperse; or b) a group of 10 or more people who create an “immediate danger of damage to property” or personal injury, who “obstruct” law enforcement or other government services, and who “disturbs any person in the enjoyment of a legal right.” Anyone who participates in, “incites,” “organizes, promotes, encourages,” “commits any act in furtherance of,” or intentionally “aids or abets any person in inciting or participating in” a “violent or disorderly assembly” is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The breadth and vagueness of the offence could cover, for instance, someone on social media whose post is deemed to have “encouraged” a crowd to stay and protest despite law enforcement’s order to disperse. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and highways, including up to one year in jail for anyone who “maliciously” obstructs the “free, convenient, and normal use” of a street or highway during a protest that was not authorized by a permit, or a protest that was deemed a “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill would shield a driver who unintentionally injured or killed someone while trying to “escape a mob” during an unpermitted protest or a “violent or disorderly assembly.” If enacted, those provisions would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for hitting and even killing a protester, as long as the injury or death was “unintended.” The bill creates a new felony offense, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for anyone who “defaces” or “vandalizes” a monument during a “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill creates another offense, punishable by up to one year in jail, for anyone who “harasses” or “intimidate[s]” another person at a public accommodation during a “violent or disorderly assembly.” The bill strips unemployment assistance from anyone convicted of the offenses described above; anyone convicted of the above offenses is also barred from holding state or local government employment. The bill would newly allow claims against local government entities and officials for the failure to protect individuals from injury or property damage caused by a riot or “violent or disorderly assembly,” if the failure constitutes “gross negligence”—provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. Finally, the bill would newly add “violent or disorderly assembly” and all related offenses described above to the crimes that can be prosecuted for “racketeering activity” under Mississippi’s RICO statute. As a result, an organization or individual found to have “conspired” with individuals to engage in or encourage a protest that is deemed a “violent or disorderly assembly” could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 15 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): conspiracy, driver immunity, riot, traffic interference, state liability, limit on public benefits

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Mississippi

SB 2283: New mandatory penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would create new, mandatory penalties for unpermitted protests that take place on or overflow into streets and highways. Under the bill, anyone who “maliciously” obstructs the “free, convenient, and normal use” of a street or highway during a protest that was not authorized by a permit, is required to be jailed for at least 25 days (and up to one year), and pay at least $500 (and up to $1,500). (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 12 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Mississippi

HB 83: Host of new criminal and administrative penalties for protesters

Would create a vaguely defined new felony offense, “violent or disorderly assembly” that could cover peaceful protesters. The offense is defined as conduct by seven or more assembled people that creates an “immediate danger of damage to property” or personal injury, or that “substantially obstructs law enforcement or other governmental functions or services.” The offense would be punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The vagueness of the definition would allow authorities broad discretion to determine what constitutes, for instance, “creat[ing] an immediate danger” of property damage or injury. The bill includes new penalties for protests that interfere with traffic on roads and sidewalks, including a felony offense for “interfering with the regular flow of vehicular traffic” during a “violent or disorderly assembly.” Under the bill, a driver who injures or kills someone who “obstructs or interferes with” traffic during an unpermitted protest or a “violent or disorderly assembly” is not criminally or civilly liable, as long as the driver did not do so “intentionally.” The bill strips unemployment assistance from any person who is convicted of or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to a number of protest-related offenses, including “violent or disorderly assembly,” and requires government officials found guilty of violating any of the bills’ provisions to be terminated. The bill precludes civil lawsuits against the state by anyone convicted of “unlawfully participating in a riot, unlawful assembly, public demonstration, mob violence, or civil disobedience,” if the claim arises out of that conduct. Further, the bill creates a new civil right of action against local governments by any “victim” of “violent or unlawful assembly” or other protest-related offenses, if the local government “failed or was grossly negligent” in policing a riot or “violent or disorderly assembly”—provisions that, if enacted, could encourage municipal and other local governments to adopt overly aggressive law enforcement responses to protests in order to avoid lawsuits. The bill would newly add “violent or disorderly assembly” to the underlying crimes that can be prosecuted for “racketeering activity” under Mississippi’s RICO statute, such that an organization or individual found to have “conspired” with individuals to engage in a protest that is deemed a “violent or disorderly assembly” could be prosecuted under RICO, and subject to felony penalties. Finally, the bill would amend Mississippi’s law on “justifiable homicide,” creating a new legal justification for anyone who uses deadly force to “necessarily” defend their business “where there is looting, rioting” or other offenses created under the bill, including the defacing of public property. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): conspiracy, driver immunity, riot, traffic interference, state liability, limit on public benefits

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Missouri

SB 66: New penalties for protesters, and shields for those who commit violence against them

Would introduce a raft of new provisions affecting protesters, including civil immunity for drivers who injure protesters and a new affirmative defense for other acts of violence against protesters. The bill provides that a driver who injures someone who was “blocking traffic in a public right-of way while participating in a protest or demonstration” is not liable for damages, if the driver was “exercising due care.” The bill would also expand Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing a person to use deadly force against someone who is participating in an “unlawful assembly” and who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter private property that is owned or leased by the person. The bill introduces a series of new penalties for conduct associated with some protests: Protesters who block traffic could be charged with a new felony offense (up to 4 years in prison and a $10,000 fine) for intentionally walking, standing, sitting, kneeling, laying or placing an object in a manner that “blocks passage by a vehicle on any public street, highway, or interstate highway.” The offense would be a Class D felony (7 years and $10,000) if committed “as part of an unlawful assembly.” Under the bill, a person who “causes emotional distress to another person while participating in an unlawful assembly,” is guilty of second-degree harassment, punishable in most cases as a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). Under the bill, protesters who vandalized, defaced, or otherwise damaged public monuments or structures on public property could be charged with “institutional vandalism,” a Class B felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Finally, the bill would create a new offense of "conspiring with others to cause or produce a riot or unlawful assembly," defined as knowingly providing payment or “other financial incentive” to six or more people to violate the Missouri laws against rioting or unlawful assembly. The new offense would be a Class E felony (4 years and $10,000). (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): conspiracy, driver immunity, riot, traffic interference, trespass

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Missouri

HB 56: Eliminating civil and criminal liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would shield a driver from civil and criminal liability for injuring someone who was participating in an “unlawful or riotous assemblage,” if the driver was fleeing from the “unlawful or riotous assemblage” and "reasonably believed” they were in danger. If enacted, the bill would allow a driver to evade civil damages and criminal penalties for intentionally hitting and even killing a protester, if the driver “reasonably believed” they were in any danger. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): driver immunity, riot

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Missouri

SB 26: heightened penalties for blocking roads

Would criminalize protests that block traffic as "unlawful traffic interference" and provide for harsh penalties. Like SB 9, introduced in the 2020 session, the bill would criminalize a person's intentional blocking of traffic on a public street or highway, whether with her body or an object, as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. If the offense is repeated, or takes place on an interstate highway, it is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If the offense is committed while the person is part of an "unlawful assembly," it is a Class D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Missouri law currently defines an "unlawful assembly" as a gathering of at least six people in order to violate a law with force or violence. The bill would broaden this definition to include a gathering of two or more people to violate any law, with or without force or violence. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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Nebraska

LB 111: Broad new penalties for "riot"-related offenses and disruptive protests

The bill would create a sweeping new “riot” offense, with steep penalties for participating in, organizing, advocating for, or assisting a riot. The bill defines “riot” as a group of three or more whose “tumultuous and violent conduct” creates “grave danger” of property damage or serious injury, or “substantially obstructs law enforcement or another governmental function.” The bill prohibits “participation” in a riot, which includes not only joining a riot, but “aiding and abetting” a riot, or “refusing any lawful order” by law enforcement. It is likewise prohibited under the bill to “advocate for or urge or organize” a riot. If the riot results in serious bodily injury or property damage, a person can be charged with a Class IV felony for the above offenses, regardless of whether the person had any role in the injury or damage, and sentenced to up to two years in prison. In all other cases the offenses are Class I misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill precludes bail for any one charged with “any crime… arising out of a riot.” The bill also affects protests on streets and sidewalks, as it creates a new offense for any person who intentionally or recklessly “obstructs a highway, street, sidewalk, aisle, hallway, or any other “public way,” whether on their own or with others. “Obstruct” is defined as rendering the public way “impassable” or “unreasonably inconvenient.” The offense, which could cover peaceful protests that take place on or spill over onto sidewalks and streets, would be a Class I misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. The bill would also make it unlawful to intentionally and substantially “obstruct or interfere with” a “lawful meeting, procession, or gathering.” The offense, which would presumably cover peaceful but disruptive protests at e.g. government hearings, would be a Class II misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. Finally, the bill also creates new Class 1 misdemeanor offenses for “unauthorized application of graffiti” on state property, where “graffiti” is defined broadly enough to encompass chalk and other temporary markings applied as part of a peaceful protest. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 7 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): conspiracy, riot, traffic interference

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New Hampshire

HB 197: Legal defense for the use of deadly force against protesters

Would create a new legal justification for using deadly force against protesters. The bill would expand New Hampshire’s self-defense statutes to justify a person’s use of deadly force against someone who they believe is “likely” to use “any unlawful force” while committing a “riot” against someone in a vehicle, house, or curtilage. The bill appears to justify deadly force against someone who is “likely” to use “any” amount of force while committing "riot"--including against a third party. If enacted, the bill is likely to encourage violent and even lethal conflict in the context of protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): riot, stand your ground

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New Jersey

S 3261: New penalties for blocking traffic and other protest-adjacent conduct

Would make it a felony offense to purposely or recklessly obstruct a public road while engaging in “disorderly conduct” or a “riot,” punishable by up to a year and a half in prison and a $10,000 fine. Both “disorderly conduct” and “riot” are defined broadly under New Jersey law: “Disorderly conduct,” for instance, could include “recklessly creating a risk of public inconvenience” by causing a “hazardous condition,” or using “unreasonably loud and offensively coarse” language in a public place. The bill would also broaden the definition of “riot,” such that a group of five or more people who engage in “disorderly conduct” and cause any damage to property or persons could face riot charges, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and $15,000. Individuals who deface a monument during an unruly protest would also face heightened penalties under the bill: Current law penalizes defacing or damaging any public monument or structure as a disorderly persons offense, subject to six months in jail. The bill would make the same offense a felony punishable by a year and a half in prison and $10,000, if committed during a “riot.” The bill would create new sanctions for protest organizers and patrons, as well: Under the bill, a person who “conspires with others as an organizer, supervisor, financier or manager to commit” one of a number of crimes during a protest would be guilty of “promotion of violent, disorderly assembly” and face enhanced criminal penalties. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 10 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): conspiracy, riot, traffic interference

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New Jersey

A 4991: Heightened penalties for blocking traffic, riot, disorderly conduct, and related offenses

Would create a new offense for blocking a highway or any “other public passage” in the course of a riot or disorderly conduct. The offense would be a fourth-degree crime, punishable by 1.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (Under current law, blocking a highway or any other passage is a petty disorderly persons offense, punishable by up to 6 months in jail.) The bill would also create a new offense for disorderly conduct committed during a riot in a “place of public accommodation.” The offense would also be a fourth-degree crime. The bill would create a new offense for “desecration of venerable objects” during a riot--also a fourth-degree crime. “Venerable objects” includes “any public monument, insignia, symbol, or structure,” and “desecrate” includes "defacing" as well as “toppling.” New Jersey currently defines “riot” as participation in disorderly conduct by a group of five or more people with an unlawful purpose. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference

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New Jersey

AB 3760: Expanded definition of "riot"

Would expand the definition of "riot" to apply to individuals in a group whose disorderly conduct results in property damage. Under the bill, anyone who participates in “disorderly conduct” in a group of four or more may be charged with rioting, if anyone in the group causes any damage to property or other monetary loss. “Disorderly conduct” is broadly defined under New Jersey law, to include any “tumultuous behavior” that causes public annoyance—even swearing loudly. If the damage caused by anyone in the group costs $2,000 or more, anyone in the group can be charged with a third-degree crime, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $15,000. According to the bill, individuals convicted under the riot provisions related to property damage must also reimburse the property owner or State of New Jersey for the damages or loss incurred. The same bill was initially introduced in May 2017 as AB 4777, and again in 2018 as AB 2853. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 6 Mar 2020.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot

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North Dakota

HB 1240: Restitution penalty for offenses related to “riot”

Would permit a court to order restitution as an additional penalty for riot-related offenses. Under the bill, a person guilty of engaging in or inciting a “riot,” or failure to obey law enforcement’s orders “during a riot,” may be ordered to make restitution for any property “damaged or destroyed in the course of the riot.” The bill does not require that a restitution order be linked to an individual’s direct responsibility for the damaged property. A bystander at the scene of a protest that was deemed a “riot,” for instance, who does not comply with a police officer’s orders, could face not only up to one year in jail (the penalty under current law) but also be charged with the cost of replacing property that was damaged by other protesters. “Riot” is defined under North Dakota law as a “public disturbance involving an assemblage of five or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs law enforcement or other government function.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 11 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1565: Mandatory dismissal of state employees convicted of protest offenses

The bill requires that employees of the state who are convicted of “incitement to riot” or “unlawful assembly” must be terminated from state employment. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): riot

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Oklahoma

HB 1561: Steep penalties for obstructing traffic, and elimination of liability for drivers who hit protesters

Would create new felony penalties for protests that take place on or spill onto streets and highways. Under the bill, a person who “willfully obstructed” the “normal use” of a public street or highway is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to 2 years in prison. The bill defines “obstruct” to include rendering the street or highway “unreasonably inconvenient or hazardous.” The bill also shields a driver who “unintentionally” injures or kills someone while “fleeing from a riot,” with the “reasonable belief” that they needed to do so to protect themselves from injury or death, they cannot be held civilly or criminally liable. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 1 Feb 2021.

Issue(s): driver immunity, traffic interference

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Oklahoma

SB 15: Mandatory restitution for property damage during unlawful assembly or riot

Would require courts to order individuals convicted of participation in a riot, incitement to riot, or participation in an unlawful assembly to pay restitution for any property damage or loss caused by the offense. Under the bill's provisions, individuals could be ordered to pay for damage that they did not personally cause, if a gathering they were part of was declared unlawful or a riot. Oklahoma law also broadly defines "riot" and "unlawful assembly," for instance giving broad discretion to authorities to label as an "unlawful assembly" a group of four or more people who gather without a permit "in such a manner as is adapted to disturb the public peace." (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Nov 2020.

Issue(s): damage costs, riot

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Rhode Island

HB 5001: New penalties for protesters who block traffic

Would introduce new felony penalties for protesters who block highway traffic. The bill creates a new “unlawful interference with traffic” offense for anyone who “stands, sits, kneels, or otherwise loiters” on a highway, causing “obstruction, distraction, or delay” of any motorist. The offense is a felony, punishable by a minimum of one and up to 3 years in prison. A second conviction for the offense is punishable by at least 3 and up to 5 years, and a third conviction is punishable by at least 5 and up to 10 years. If the interference causes the “obstruction, distraction, or delay” of an emergency vehicle, and results in death, anyone convicted of participating in the interference will be sentenced to at least 5 and up to 30 years in prison. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 8 Jan 2021.

Issue(s): traffic interference

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South Carolina

HB 3491: New penalties for protesters, and a shield for those who commit violence against them

Would create new penalties for offenses that could encompass conduct by peaceful protesters. The bill newly criminalizes the blocking of a street, sidewalk, or “any other place used for the passage of persons, vehicles or conveyances.” Accordingly, protesters who obstruct or make it “unreasonably inconvenient” to use a street or sidewalk could face up to three years in jail. The bill also targets protest encampments on the grounds outside government buildings, by broadly defining “camping,” and prohibiting camping on state property that is not designated for camping. As such, protesters who use any “piece of furniture” or erect tarps or other shelters on state property could be charged with a felony, if they continue to do so 24 hours after receiving a warning. The bill amends South Carolina’s law on “rioting” to require that anyone convicted of rioting—including “by being personally present [at], or by instigating, promoting, or aiding” a riot—be ordered to pay restitution “for any property damage or loss incurred as a result.” Protesters could thus be liable for property damage that they did not cause, but were “present” for. Finally, the bill would create new criminal and civil immunity for a person who uses deadly force or points a firearm when “confronted by a mob,” where “mob” is broadly defined. The provision may encourage the use of force and the incidence of violent confrontations in the context of protests. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 16 Dec 2020.

Issue(s): damage costs, conspiracy, riot, traffic interference, camping

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Virginia

SB 5079: New civil liability for law enforcement agencies that “stand down” during a riot or unlawful assembly

Would allow someone who is injured or sustains any property damage to sue the director of a law enforcement agency, if the person's injuries or damage were incurred as a result of the director ordering law enforcement officers not to take action in response to a riot or unlawful assembly. The bill provides that, in such lawsuits, a plaintiff may recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney fees and costs, including costs and reasonable fees for expert witnesses. If enacted, the bill’s proposal would create incentives for law enforcement to use more aggressive, provocative tactics against protesters, including peaceful protesters, in order to avoid a costly lawsuit. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Aug 2020.

Issue(s): damage costs, police response, riot, state liability

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Virginia

SB 5058: Heightened penalties for remaining at an unlawful assembly or riot

Would increase the criminal penalty for remaining at the place of a declared “unlawful assembly” or “riot” after having been lawfully warned to disperse. The penalty would be a Class 1, rather than Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Virginia law defines “unlawful assembly” broadly, to include a gathering of three or more people that “tends to inspire” a “well-grounded fear of serious and immediate breaches of public safety, peace or order.” Peaceful protesters who failed to leave the scene of such a gathering, after being ordered to do so, could accordingly face up to one year in jail. (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Aug 2020.

Issue(s): riot

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Virginia

SB 5074: New penalties for protests that block emergency vehicles

Would heighten existing penalties for anyone who “unreasonably or unnecessarily obstructs the delivery of emergency medical services,” or who “refuses to cease such obstruction or move on when requested to do so” from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony, if the violation occurs at the site of a riot or unlawful assembly. Virginia law defines “unlawful assembly” broadly, to include a gathering of three or more people that “tends to inspire” a “well-grounded fear of serious and immediate breaches of public safety, peace or order.” Under the bill, participants in a peaceful street protest who failed or were unable to make way for emergency vehicles, for instance, could face felony charges if their gathering was deemed to be an “unlawful assembly.” (See full text of bill here)

Status: pending

Introduced 17 Aug 2020.

Issue(s): riot, traffic interference

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For more information about the Tracker, contact Elly Page at EPage@icnl.org.